Intended for healthcare professionals


Abortion doctor suffers second attack in six years

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 22 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:197
  1. David Spurgeon
  1. Quebec

    A Vancouver gynaecologist, Dr Garson Romalis, who performs abortions and who was shot six years ago as he ate breakfast in his home (BMJ 1994; 309:1322), has been stabbed by a young man in the lobby of his office at a medical clinic.

    Since this latest attack, Dr Ellen Wiebe, another Vancouver gynaecologist who had during the previous week announced she had begun clinical trials with the abortion pill mifepristone (RU-486), has received what police called “a threatening message through her answering service.”

    Dr Romalis, who was put under armed guard while in hospital after the attack, is reported to be doing well. Dr Wiebe said that the stabbing would not deter her.

    Vancouver police urged all abortion providers to be on high alert, and British Columbia's premier, Ujjal Dosanjh, called for tougher penalties for those attacking doctors doing their jobs. The federal justice minister said that she was willing to look at tougher sanctions but that the Criminal Code already dealt with such actions.

    Police are trying to determine whether the latest attack on Dr Romalis and the threat against Dr Wiebe are linked to the previous shooting of Dr Romalis and perhaps several other similar incidents. The weapon was different and the attack occurred in summer, whereas the other incidents happened during the autumn.

    A warrant was issued earlier this year for American antiabortionist James Kopp, who is a suspect in the shooting of Dr Romalis in 1994 and of two other abortion providers in Canada. Mr Kopp, believed to be in hiding in Mexico, has also been indicted for the 1998 murder of Dr Barnett Slepian of Amherst, New York.

    :Several people who were in the Seymour Medical Clinic, where Dr Romalis has his office, said that the assailant, a white man in his 20s or 30s dressed in a hooded dark grey or black tracksuit, waited for some time for Dr Romalis to appear. He watched as the doctor left his car with a valet for parking, then returned outside for his forgotten briefcase, and when Dr Romalis re-entered he stabbed him in the left rib cage from behind and escaped.

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